Conviviality and phatic communion?


  • Ben Rampton King's College London, Centre for Language Discourse & Communication practices



The focus on 'unimportant' language in this collection is driven by major contemporary questions. In conditions of superdiversity, the old binaries-minority/majority, migrant/host etc. -can no longer account for the splits and alignments emerging in globalised environments and in response, social scientists have turned their attention to informal processes, seeking new principles for social cohesion in low-key local 'conviviality' (Gilroy 2006; Vertovec 2007; Wetherell 2009). Along similar lines, commentators point to the decline of traditional party politics and look instead to social media and digital communication as new resources for grassroots mobilisation. So does the communication of apparently trivial matters really hold the seeds to social renewal, or are such ideas romantically over-inflated?
The papers provide a range of answers to questions of this kind, and I won't try to summarise their nuanced formulations or to endorse or challenge their substantive claims. But whatever their conclusions, 'conviviality' and 'phatic communication' play a major part in the discussion; and in what follows, I will comment on how and where I think these notions are problematic or productive. My remarks are largely methodological, dwelling in particular on the challenges of working across social processes of different scale, though I will conclude with some notes on surveillance, a (substantive) issue that in sociolinguistics is often underplayed.




How to Cite

Rampton, B. (2017). Conviviality and phatic communion?. Multilingual Margins: A Journal of Multilingualism from the Periphery, 2(1), 83.